Battle of Ball's Bluff
Report of Brig. Gen. N. G. Evans, C. S. Army,
HEADQUARTERS SEVENTH BRIGADE,
Leesburg, Va., October 31, 1861.
Lieut. Col. THOMAS JORDAN,
A. A. G., 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac, near Centreville.
COLONEL: I beg leave to submit the following report of the action of the troops of the Seventh Brigade in the battle of the 21st and 22d instant with the enemy at Leesburg, Va.:
On Saturday night, the 19th instant, about 7 o'clock p.m., the enemy commenced a heavy cannonading from three batteries, one playing on my intrenchment (known as Fort Evans), one on the Leesburg turnpike, and one on Edwards Ferry. Heavy firing was also heard in the direction of Dranesville.
At 12 o'clock at night I ordered my entire brigade to the Burnt Bridge, on the turnpike. The enemy had been reported as approaching from Dranesville in large force. Taking a strong position on the north side of Goose Creek, I awaited his approach. Reconnoitering the turnpike on Sunday morning, the courier of General McCall was captured, bearing dispatches to General Meade to examine the roads leading to Leesburg. From this prisoner I learned the position of the enemy near Dranesville. During Sunday the enemy kept a deliberate fire without any effect.
Early on Monday morning, the 21st instant, I heard the firing of my pickets at Big Spring, who had discovered that at an unguarded point the enemy had effected a crossing in force of five companies and were advancing on Leesburg. Captain [Win. L.] Duff, of the Seventeenth Regiment, immediately attacked him, driving him back, with several killed and wounded.
On observing the movements of the enemy from Fort Evans at 6 o'clock a.m., I found he had effected a crossing both at Edwards Ferry and Ball's Bluff, and I made preparations to meet him in both positions, and immediately ordered four companies of infantry (two of the Eighteenth, one of the Seventeenth, and one of the Thirteenth) and a cavalry force to relieve Captain Duff; the whole force, under the immediate command of Lieut. Col. W. H. Jenifer, who was directed to hold his position till the enemy made further demonstration of his design of attack. This force soon became warmly engaged with the enemy, and drove them back for some distance in the woods.
At about 10 o'clock I became convinced that the main point of attack would be at Ball's Bluff, and ordered Colonel Hunton, with his regiment, the Eighth Virginia Volunteers, to repair immediately to the support of Colonel Jenifer. I directed Colonel Hunton to form line of battle immediately in the rear of Colonel Jenifer's command and to drive the enemy to the river; that I would support his right with artillery. About 12.20 o'clock p.m. Colonel Hunton united his command with that of Colonel Jenifer, and both commands soon became hotly engaged with the enemy in their strong position in the woods.
Watching carefully the action, I saw the enemy were constantly being re-enforced, and at 2.30 o'clock p.m. ordered Colonel Burt to march his regiment, the Eighteenth Mississippi, and attack the left flank of the enemy, while Colonels Hunton and Jenifer attacked him in front. On arriving at his position Colonel Burt was received with a tremendous fire from the enemy concealed in a ravine, and was compelled to divide his regiment to stop the flank movement of the enemy.
At this time, about 3 o'clock, finding the enemy were in large force, I ordered Colonel Featherston, with his regiment, the Seventeenth Mississippi, to repair at. double-quick to the support of Colonel Burt, where he arrived in twenty minutes, and the action became general along my whole line, and was very hot and brisk for more than two hours, the enemy keeping up a constant fire with his batteries on both sides of the river. At about 6 o'clock p.m. I saw that my command had driven the enemy near the banks of the Potomac. I ordered my entire force to charge and to drive him into the river. The charge was immediately made by the whole command, and the forces of the enemy were completely routed, and cried out for quarter along his whole line.
In this charge the enemy were driven back at the point of the bayonet, <ar5_350>and many killed and wounded by this formidable weapon. In the precipitate retreat of the enemy on the bluffs of the river many of his troops rushed into the water and were drowned, while many others, in overloading the boats, sunk them, and shared the same fate. The rout now, about 7 o'clock, became complete, and the enemy commenced throwing his arms into the river. During this action I held Col. William Barksdale, with nine companies of his regiment, the Thirteenth Mississippi, and six pieces of artillery, as a reserve, as well as to keep up a demonstration against the force of the enemy at Edwards Ferry.
At 8 o'clock p.m. the enemy surrendered his forces at Ball's Bluff, and the prisoners were marched to Leesburg. I then ordered my brigade (with the exception of the Thirteenth Regiment Mississippi, which remained in front of Edwards Ferry) to retire to the town of Leesburg, and rest for the night.
On Tuesday morning I was informed by Colonel Barksdale that the enemy were still in considerable force at Edwards Ferry. I directed him to make a thorough reconnaissance of the position and strength of the enemy and attack him. At 2 o'clock p.m. he gallantly attacked a much superior force in their intrenchments, driving them to the bank of the river, killing 30 or 40, and wounding a considerable number. About sundown, the enemy being strongly re-enforced and stationed in rifle-pits, Colonel Barksdale wisely retired with his regiment to Fort Evans, leaving a guard of two companies to watch the novements of the enemy, who, evidently expecting a renewed attack, retired during the night and recrossed the river at Edwards-Ferry.
On Wednesday morning, finding my brigade very much exhausted, I left Colonel Barksdale, with his regiment, with two pieces of artillery and a cavalry force, as a grand guard, and I ordered the other three regiments to fall back towards Carter's Mill to rest and to be collected in order. Colonel Hunton, with his regiment and two pieces of artillery, were halted at a strong position on the south bank of the Sycolin, about 3 miles south of Leesburg.
I would here state that in an interview on Monday night with the commissioned officers of the Federal Army taken prisoners I was convinced that they expected to be recaptured either during the night or the next day, and as the captured officers refused their parole not to take up arms against the Southern Confederacy till duly exchanged, I ordered the whole number to be immediately marched to Manassas. This parole was only offered to give them the liberty of the town, as I did not wish to confine them with the privates.
In the engagement on the 21st of October, which lasted nearly thirteen hours, our loss, from a force of 1,709 aggregate, was as follows :
The force of the enemy, as far as I have been able to ascertain, was five regiments and three pieces of artillery at Ball's Bluff, and four regiments, two batteries, and a squadron of cavalry at Edwards Ferry, numbering in all about 8,000 troops. In addition to this force three 1)arteries of long range were constantly firing on my troops from the Maryland side of the river.
The loss of the enemy, so far as known, is as follows: 1,300 killed, wounded, and drowned; captured 710 prisoners, 1,500 stand of arms, three pieces of cannon, one stand of colors, a large number of cartridge-boxes, bayonet scabbards, and a quantity of camp furniture. Among the killed of the enemy was General Baker, formerly Senator from Oregon, and several other commissioned officers. Among the prisoners taken were 22 commissioned officers, the names of whom have already been furnished.
General C. P. Stone commanded the Federal forces until 3 o'clock on the morning of the 22d, when he was superseded by Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks.
The engagement on our side was fought entirely with the musket. The artillery was in position to do effective service should the enemy have advanced from their cover. The enemy were armed with the Minie musket, the Belgian gun, and Springfield musket; a telescopic target rifle was also among the arms found.
In closing my report I would call the attention of the general commanding to the heroism and gallantry displayed by the officers and men of the Seventh Brigade in the actions of the 21st and 22d of October. The promptness with which every commander obeyed and the spirit with which their men executed my orders to attack the enemy in much superior force and in a position where he had great advantages entitles them to the thanks of the Southern Confederacy. Without food or rest for more than twelve hours previous to the commencement of the battle, they drove an enemy four times their number from the soil of Virginia, killing and taking prisoners a greater number than our whole force engaged. To witness the patience, enthusiasm, and devotion of the troops to our cause during an action of thirteen hours excited my warmest admiration.
As my entire brigade exceeded my most sanguine expectations in their intrepidity and endurance, I am unable to individualize any particular command, as the tenacity with which each regiment held their positions was equaled only by their undaunted courage and firm determination to conquer.
To my general staff I am much indebted. Maj. John D. Rogers, brigade quartermaster, was directed to conduct the baggage train beyond Goose Creek, which difficult duty was performed in the night with great regularity. Captain Orr, brigade commissary, was actively engaged in securing commissary stores and in providing cooked rations for the brigade. To my acting aide-de-camp, Lieut. Charles B. Wild-man, of the Seventeenth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, and my volunteer aide, Mr. William H. Rogers, I am particularly indebted for services on the field of battle. Lieutenant Wildman conducted the Eighteenth Regiment and Mr. Rogers the Seventeenth Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers to their respective positions in the action, and both repeatedly bore my orders under heavy fire. Capt. A. L. Evans, assistant adjutant-general, though detained by other duty till 2 o'clock p.m., rendered valuable service. The medical staff, both brigade and regimental, were all actively engaged during the day in removing the dead and wounded and in patriotically administering relief to the dying on the field.
I am pained to report the fall of the gallant Col. E. R. Burr, of the Eighteenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers. He was mortally wounded about 4 o'clock p.m., while gallantly leading his regiment under a tremendous fire. His loss is truly severe to his regiment and to our common cause.
At about 2 o'clock p.m. on the 21st I sent a message to Gen. R. L. Wright to bring his militia force to my assistance at Fort Evans. He reported to me in person that he was unable to get his men to turn out, though there were a great number in town and arms and ammunition were offered them.
The prisoners taken were sent to Manassas under charge of Capt. O. R. Singleton, of the Eighteenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, with his company, and Capt. W. A. P. Jones, of the Seventeenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, and a detachment of cavalry, the whole under the command of Captain Singleton, who conducted 529 prisoners nearly 25 miles after the great fatigue of the battle.
Accompanying this report I inclose an accurate map of the field of battle, and the reports of the immediate commanders; to the latter I would respectfully refer for individual acts of gallantry and patriotism. I also forward the report of the field officer of the day, Lieutenant-Colonel McGuirk, of the Seventeenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, to whom I am much indebted for information of the flank movements of the enemy. Lieut. Sheffield Duval, here on duty as Topographical Engineer, and Sergt. William R. Chambliss, of the Eighteenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, my private secretary, rendered material service, the former by fighting on foot with his musket as a private, the latter by conveying my orders on the field of battle under heavy fire.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. G. EVANS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Seventh Brigade.
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
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